Did you know, India accounts for 43% of the children who are below the actual weight, and 48% are inhibited from proper growth?
Improper breastfeeding practices are one of the major reasons for such undernutrition. A UNICEF report claimed that as many as 56.6% of newborn infants are not able to breastfeed inside the first hour of birth.
Nidhi Parmar Hiranandani, the producer of “Saand Ki Aankh” film, decided to do something about it, in spite of social stigma. The new mom decided to donate her breastmilk to save newborns.
This heart-warming story is a true inspiration.
On 21st February 2020, she gave birth to a baby boy, starting her new motherhood, realised that a lot of her breastmilk is reserved in home freezers by left unused. But she has no idea of what to do with the saved milk. So, she asked her friends about the same but got various answers like massaging her feet with it, bathing her baby with it, throwing it away, etc.
Yet, none of those answers felt satisfied enough to Nidhi. To find a reasonable solution, here’s what she did, “I had never given any thought about this and I was completely unaware that this was a viable option. Only when faced with the prospect of having to throw away the milk in the freezer, I started searching for better ways to use the milk. I read up about milk banks in the US and started researching about milk banks in India”.
On reaching the dead end, Nidhi called up to her Gynaecologist’s clinic. They directed Nidhi to Dr. Hari at Surya Hospital, where he explained to her the importance of breast milk for premature babies. “After a little chat with Dr. Hari, I was convinced and started donating immediately” adds Nidhi.
She donated the milk from her doorstep itself, as the ambulance from Surya Hospital came for picking. “I followed all the hygiene practices and stored the milk as asked. While I was in Chandigarh, I donated milk to GMCH. I don’t know how many babies I’ve helped as that’s not something that you can keep track of. At Surya hospital, the NICU has about 60 babies at any given point in time. I don’t have an idea about GMCH.” states Nidhi about safe practices and donations.
As Nidhi also started her new motherhood, she shared some of the challenges related to breastfeeding. “It is really painful for the first 30-40 days and you also struggle with under or oversupply. You can develop conditions like sore nipples or mastitis which only makes it worse. This is in addition to hardly getting any sleep and being isolated for a while.”
“I think it is a very small investment which has a very high return. Just 15 minutes a day allows me to help premature babies who need this as life support. It’s a no brainer. I feel that donating milk should come as easily as breathing to mom’s who have an abundant milk supply. At least I hope we get there someday.”
“The hospital told me that I became the super donor as I hit the 42 litre mark. I still don’t keep any tab on how much I donate each time, but yes, I have an approximate idea. I will continue my donations till I feed my baby. Hopefully till February 2021.”
But what about the social stigma that taking someone’s breastmilk is not the right thing? Many look down on the idea because it is seemingly inappropriate to other mothers, and it hurts the mother’s sentiments.
“I find this thought process very bizarre. Why would any mother’s sentiments be hurt if someone else’s milk is saving their child? Similarly, a mother won’t feel bad donating it if it helps babies in need. Well, I have donated about 50 litres now, and my child gets more than enough and some to spare so go figure”.
“It was when I visited the NICU to see the babies where my milk was fed to them. I felt good that I have been able to help a lot of babies. I also feel that the reward is far greater than the act of donating the milk”.
Once Nidhi became aware of this option, there were no second thoughts - “I was lucky enough to have an abundant supply of milk, and sharing it with babies who need it the most was a no-brainer.”
Lactating moms, would you like to donate too?
Women out there who want to donate milk have to go through certain tests like HIV, Hepatitis B/C, among others.
Once the tests are cleared by the milk bank doctor, you’ll be eligible to donate your breastmilk.
For storage, you get breast milk BPA free storage bags online. You have to freeze the bags as and when you fill them up. You can store them in your freezer for about 3-4 months.
Nidhi told that she’ll keep helping the new mothers in resolving their queries. She plans to open up the conversation about milk donations with new mothers to create awareness about this life-giving donation.
All the images are sourced with permission from Nidhi Parmar Hiranandani.